Malik Faridullah Khan

This is from three years ago, but I thought it was relevant to the difficulties in negotiating peace with tribal elders in Waziristan. From Zahid Hussain’s book Frontine Pakistan1:

[Nek Mohammad’s] supporters led by Abdullah Mehsud, had continued to engage Pakistani security forces in a drawn-out guerrilla war. Their targets included those tribal chiefs who had collaborated with the Pakistani military. One by one, all those who had backed military operations against the militants in South and North Waziristan were killed. Faridullah Khan, a Waziri tribal elder and former senator, virtually signed his own death warrant when, in March 2004, he facilitated the entry of army troops to his home village, Shakai in South Waziristan. His men helped soldiers to demolish the houses of the tribesmen linked with the al-Qaeda. He even permitted soldiers to use his fort-like house.

I saw Faridullah at an army sponsored tribal jirga in Shakai in April 2005. Escorted by armed guards, Faridullah, who sported a huge turban and a bushy moustache, declared, ‘Al-Qaeda were all over the valley. But this year they are on the run. Peace has been restored.’ Twenty-four hours later, Faridullah was dead. The killers had waited at a diversion of the main road, when his jeep passed on the way from a meeting with the army commander. The militants had blasted the vehicle with rocket-propelled grenades. Ironically, Faridullah was killed a day after General Khattak had declared that South Waziristan had been cleared of foreign terrorists.

1Hussain, Zahid. “Tribal Warriors.” Frontline Pakistan. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2007. 152-3


US response to Swat and FATA negotiations

There has not been an official statement from Washington regarding the peace pact between the NWFP government and Maulana Fazlullah in Swat, but both the White House and Congress are extremely critical of the federal government’s negotiations in Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which have been going on in parallel. This response is summarized comprehensively by Anwar Iqbal in an article in today’s Dawn4:

At a special hearing on Fata at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers put their differences aside in urging the administration to use its influence and persuade Pakistan to call off the talks.

The US media and think tanks are already opposing the talks and questioning Washington’s wisdom in providing military and economic assistance to a government which is making peace overtures to America’s enemies.

The article also contains a statement John Kerry which really highlights the differences between the US and Pakistan in their policy aims for the tribal areas:

In the Senate, Senator John Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, initiated the debate on Pakistan’s peace talks with the tribal militants when he recalled that during his meetings with Pakistan’s new leaders in February, he realised they had a very different understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat in Fata than the United States.
“In two days of meetings, Osama bin Laden’s name was hardly ever mentioned. Instead, the Pakistanis are focused on confronting a growing domestic Pashtun insurgency led by Baitullah Mehsud,” he said

There is a brief summary of negative reactions to the Swat deal at the end of this CBS News article1:

Washington was officially reserving judgment on the deal. The Associated Press reported that State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, when pressed for comment Wednesday, said simply: “We’ll see.”

This ABC News article2 has a similar statement from former Clinton chief counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke:

“While the deal sounds good, it’s likely to be implemented badly,” said Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant and former White House counterterrorism chief. “What this means is that the United States will continue to be threatened by an al Qaeda that has a safe haven where it can attract people from around the world, be trained and equipped and sent out to the United States and other countries around the world.”

The NWFP government is very conscious of the need to put as good a spin on the truce as possible. The NWFP Minister for Information and Inter-Provincial Coordination, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, urged members of the media3 to write favourable editorials highlighting the positive results of the agreement.

The interesting thing about Hussain’s remarks was his insistence on the differences between Swat and FATA:

The Information Minister said the situation of Swat was different from the restive areas of FATA and international community, which is expressing some concerns over the pact, will accept it with passage of time as it in the interest of every body.

This is what he had to say about the federal government’s much more controversial agreement with the followers of Baitullah Mehsud in Waziristan:

Asked about talks with militants in FATA, the Information Minister said that tribal had rendered great sacrifices during the creation and strengthening of Pakistan and said that peace can be restored in the troubled areas of FATA if the federal government take NWFP government on board in process of negotiation.

This attempt to distance the NWFP government from the FATA negotiations is not surprising since the US has taken a much firmer stance on FATA and has not yet officially commented on Swat.

1 Bokhari, Farhan. (May 22, 2008). Pakistan Signs Truce With Militants. CBS News.
2 Khan, Habibullah and Peters, Gretchen. (May 22, 2008). U.S. Officials Call Pakistan Deal ‘Bin Laden Victory’. ABC News
3 (May 22, 2008). Media, intelligentsia urged to positively highlight Swat peace pact.. Associated Press of Pakistan.
4Iqbal, Anwar. (May 22, 2008). US wants Baitullah arrested, talks abandoned. The Dawn:


The members of the media who were flown in to Waziristan over the weekend1 courtesy of the Pakistan Army are writing up their reports of what they saw and they are really interesting. Zaffar Abbas, writing about Spinkai2 in South Waziristan, describes an abandoned compound that was, according to Major-General Tariq Khan, “[…]like a factory that had been recruiting 9- to 12-year-old boys, and turning them into suicide bombers”.

Army officers stationed there admit that until the operation started they only had some idea about such activities, and it was only in January that they discovered how organised these militants were in their mission to recruit, indoctrinate and launch suicide bombers. The computers, other equipment and literature seized from the place, some of which were shown to us, give graphic details of the training process in this so-called ‘nursery’. There are videos of young boys carrying out executions, a classroom where 10- to 12-year olds are sitting in formations, with white band of Quranic verses wrapped around their forehead, and there are training videos to show how improvsided explosive devices are made and detonated.
Now this entire area is under the control of army, which by local tribal traditions and laws of the semi-autonomous territory is being treated as an occupation force. But this all may soon change, as the new political governments at the centre and in the NWFP are attempting to negotiate a peace deal, part of which would mean withdrawal of army from the tribal area, and return of the displaced Mehsud tribals to Spinkai and other towns and villages

AP writer Ishtiaq Mahsud explains why the journalists were flown out there in the first place3 (emphasis added):

“Right now, there is nothing that moves inside that area except my troops,” said Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan, the stout commander of the operation. “Villages have been completely wiped out.”
Mehsud, he insists, has entered the new government’s nascent peace process severely weakened.

But plans to pull back Khan’s men to let the families return to their mountain valley are being scrutinized in Western capitals for signs that Pakistan is going soft in the war on terrorism.

To counter such an impression, army officers took the unusual step of escorting a small group of journalists by helicopter and pickup truck to Spinkai on Sunday.
But Khan insists Mehsud has made himself deeply unpopular with his fellow tribesmen because his activities have drawn a painful response from the army in places like Spinkai.

Before moving in, the troops dropped leaflets telling the civilian population to flee.

Army tanks then rumbled up the dry riverbed and helicopter gunships and artillery supported the troops who stormed hilltop bunkers and fortified compounds, Khan said. About 30 militants and six soldiers died, with many more wounded. Hundreds more militants escaped to the west.

He said two ethnic Uzbeks were among the militants killed, but said there was no evidence of “hard-core” al-Qaida fighters, despite the caches of arms and explosives found in several buildings.

Here is another Associated Press of Pakistan article (via the Business Recorder)4 about General Abbas’ statements during the media briefing.

He said that the Army was constructing roads, providing electricity, food and ensuring other facilities of life to the people of South Waziristan to bring them into national mainstream. In order to reduce the influence of Talibanisation, three FM Channels have been set up to provide wholesome and meaningful programmes, he informed.

1(May 19, 2008). “Army relocation to allow return of displaced people”. The News.
2Abbas, Zafar. (May 19, 2008). “Taliban ousted, but Spinkai is now a ghost town”. The Dawn.
3Mahsud, Isthiaq. (May 19, 2008). “Ghost village haunts Pakistani plans to make peace with tribal militants”. International Herald-Tribune.
4(May 19, 2008). “Army not withdrawing from South Waziristan: General Abbas”. Business Recorder.

Pakistan Aims to Quell Hostilities

On Wednesday, Pakistan freed 37 militants and Pakistani troops started pulling out of South Waziristan. Government officials reported that the government and militants were close to reaching a peace agreement. However, NATO is concerned that Pakistan’s attempts to broker peace with the militants is leading to an increase in attacks by insurgents in Eastern Afghanistan against the coalition forces.

Article: Pakistan Aims to Quell Hostilities
Author: Zahid Hussain
Publication: The Wall Street Journal

Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants

Pakistani security forces last week blocked the main artery into the South Waziristan tribal area from Afghanistan. The writer argues that the Taliban needs to keep supply lines open in order to move more men across the border into Pakistan. By keeping up the fighting, the militants hope to derail the US and Pakistan’s original plan for dealing with the Taliban which was to “chop off” the more hardline elements through special operations by US-trained Pakistani units and then leave the local Jirgas to attempt to find a middle ground with the remaining, more moderate elements. Unfortunately, the military operations in Swat and Al-Qaeda’s “chaos strategy” after the Lal Masjid operation has put a halt to these plans and the Pakistan government is now faced with the decision of how far to go to against people like Mehsud.

Article: Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants
Author: Syed Saleem Shahzad
Publication: The Asia Times Online